Here are some key facts about NASA (National Aeronautics and Space Administration):
1. NASA was established on July 29, 1958 by the National Aeronautics and Space Act.
2. The 2009 budget for NASA is $17.6 billion dollars.
3. With it's motto as "For the Benefit of All", NASA was influenced by the space race, with the launch of the Soviet space program's first human-made satellite, Sputnik 1, on October 4, 1957.
4. The Apollo program, which was a spaceflight program from 1961-1975, was designed to land humans on the Moon and bring them back safely to Earth. Apollo 1 tragically ended when all the astronauts on board were killed due to the fire in the command module during an experimental simulation. Apollo 11, on July 20, 1969, landed the first men on the moon, Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin.
5. The six missions of the Apollo program returned almost 400 kilograms of lunar samples with experiments including meteoroids, heat flow, seismic, lunar ranging, soil mechanics, magnetic fields, and solar wind experiments.
6. The Skylab was the first space station that the United States had launched into orbit. From 1973 to 1979, this 75 tonne station was in Earth's orbit. It's purpose was to study gravitational anomalies in other solar systems, but was curtailed due to lack of funding and interest. The station was visited by crew three times in 1973 and 1974.
7. The Apollo-Soyuz was the first joint flight of the U.S. and Soviet space programs. This took place in July 1975.
8. The major focus of NASA in the late 1970s and 1980s was the Space Shuttle.
9. The United States and Russia are the two biggest partners in the largest space station ever built, the International Space Station. It was been difficult for NASA to justify the ISS because it costs over $100 billion dollars.
10. The 1990s was a difficult time for NASA, facing shrinking annual budgets due to Congressional belt-tightening in Washington D.C. NASA's ninth administrator, Daniel Goldin, in response, pioneered the "faster, better, cheaper" approach that enabled NASA to cut costs while still delivering a variety of aerospace programs.
11. As of December 2006, NASA has made 116 successful launches.
12. The current space policy of the United States is "execute a sustained and affordable human and robotic program of space exploration and develop, acquire, and use civil space systems to advance fundamental scientific knowledge of our Earth system, solar system, and universe."
13. Ongoing investigations of NASA include in-depth surveys of Mars and Saturn and studies of the Earth and the Sun.
14. One NASA spacecraft is presently en route to Mercury and Pluto.
15. NASA's itinerary covers over half of the solar system, with missions to Jupiter in the planning stages.
16. In 2011, an improved and larger planetary rover, Mars Science Laboratory, is slated to launch.
17. The New Horizons mission to Pluto was launched in 2006 and will fly to Pluto in 2015. The probe received a gravity assist from Jupiter in February 2007, which examined Jupiter's inner moons.
18. The MAVEN spacecraft is on the horizon of NASA's plans and is part of the Mars Scout Program to study the atmosphere of Mars.
19. The Vision for Space Exploration is the United States space policy that was announced on January 14, 2004, by United States President George W. Bush that in 2018, mankind will return to the moon and set up outposts as a testbed and a potential resource for future missions.
20. In 2010, the Space Shuttle will retire and be replaced by Orion by 2015, which is capable of both docking with the International Space Station and leave the Earth's orbit.
21. On September 28, 2007, NASA administrator Michael D. Griffin stated that NASA aims to put a man on Mars by 2037, and in 2057, "We should be celebrating 20 years of man on Mars."
22. NASA announced on December 4, 2006 that it was planning on building a permanent moon base.
23. NASA's headquarters is located in Washington, D.C.
24. The Administrator of NASA is the highest-ranking official and serves as the senior space science adviser to the President of the United States.
25. NASA remains to be the only space agency to have launched space missions to the outer solar system beyond the asteroid belt.